Move of the Week: Conventional Deadlift

Can’t enjoy the weather if you don’t have your summer body ready, right? Here’s one move you can do to catch up! 

THE MOVE: Conventional Deadlift

MOVEMENT PATTERN AND MUSCLES WORKED: Hinge: posterior chain, hamstrings, glutes, upper back, core, arms (basically, everything).

WHY DO IT: The deadlift. It’s one of the most important things you can do to build strength and muscle in the gym. In fact, it might be the ONLY thing you need to do if you have limited options at your disposal when it comes to working out.

There are a few reasons why the deadlift is so important. Firstly, it’s a multi-joint exercise that works out the entire body. Secondly, it is CNS-intensive (central nervous system), which basically means that it is a full-body effort that makes you work hard. Thirdly, the hinge is a foundational movement pattern that is used both in and out of the gym. Finally, the conventional deadlift has incredible loading potential–you can always keep improving it.

Aesthetically, there are huge benefits to the deadlift as well. It won’t make you “big” in isolation; rather, it will enhance your muscularity and figure all over. Imagine not looking skinny-fat or soft anymore–the deadlift lays the groundwork for these kind of results to occur, and it really lays to waste the notion that lifting will make you bulky.

Case in point, I’m as much of a stick figure as there ever will be in the history of man, yet I have deadlifted over 450 pounds. If I had to choose however, I would say that the deadlift works and builds the hamstrings, glutes, upper back, core, and arms…which is basically everything anyway!

The conventional deadlift also lays the groundwork for strength gains in other movements and whatever else you are doing in the gym. If you have a strong deadlift, you should be able to become reasonably strong in other movements such as squats, lunges, rows, presses, and everything else in between. Think of the deadlift as building a wide base for your pyramid of strength.

HOW TO DO IT: We can write a handful of articles about the deadlift and deadlift technique alone, but for today we’ll keep it simple. The conventional deadlift is characterized by its narrower stance and the hand positioning outside of the knees when compared to the sumo deadlift.

In the starting position, you want your toes pointed straight ahead, your feet no more than hip width apart, and your arms hanging straight down from your shoulder sockets. This is called a straight-stance. From here, get close to the bar so that your shins almost touch it.

To get down to the bar, think about sitting your butt back as far as you can while keeping the shins straight. This ensures that we’re using the posterior chain–hamstrings and glutes–during this exercise. Make sure to keep the chest up as well to ensure that your spine is neutral as well. When you can’t sit back anymore, bend your knees slightly to get down the rest of the way.

Grip the bar tight now and brace your abs. Think about pulling yourself down to the bar to keep the chest up. At this point, it should be uncomfortable to sit down there any longer. Proceed to push your heels away from the floor to fully extend the body and perform the deadlift. Finish by wedging your hips through and locking out with the glutes.

Unlock your knees slightly, and let the bar descend to the floor with control. Reset and repeat for reps. Here’s a video of all this in action:

The Conventional Deadlift should be the primary exercise in a training session, and you should definitely go heavy on it. I’d recommend it for 3-4 sets of 3-5 reps, although these parameters will vary greatly depending on your needs. For example, a strong lifter look to increase his 1-rep max might need to do 8 sets of just 1 rep. Make the deadlift part of your routine, and let us know what you think on Twitter or Instagram @halevylife !

by Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau Halevy Life Staff CoachJeremy Lau is a Senior Staff Coach at Halevy Life.

Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and received his Master’s in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.

As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.